The sun had entered into its final descent, casting the narrow valley into shadow. The trail wound through the valley's tall waving grass, heading straight towards the crack in the mountains. Rest and comfort waited on the other side of the pass for the weary travelers; keeping that in mind, they spurred their mounts onward.
There weren't more than ten men in the caravan; five guards ranging close to the wagon and the three others who rode. Though the times were peaceful, there had been more than a few travelers waylaid, goods stolen, people killed or captured and never heard from again. The captain of the guard knew this well; his job, his honor and that of his family lay on the line. He would protect his cargo and deliver him safely to the boy's uncle or he would forfeit his life.
Riding from one end of the caravan to the other, checking with the point guard to make sure the way remained safe, he paused for a moment to check on his charge.
"My lord, how are you faring?" his voice harsh but holding a hint of respect.
Laughing eyes turned on him, and the smirk he'd come to dread found it's mark. "Captain Wu, I didn't know you... cared." A lid winked in his direction before the boy laughed at his blush.
The guard captain attempted to control the glare forming; it would do no good, and would add fuel to the boy's fire. Giving him and his companion a curt nod, he swung his mount away, and rode back to the trailing guard. They had been in route for five days, and had another two to go. If the boy kept at him as he had, the captain wasn't sure what shape the boy would be in when they arrived at their destination.
"Really, Duo. You shouldn't tease him so much," the friendly voice of the young man's companion admonished. "He is a great captain and is trying his best to do his job."
The young noble in question sighed and cast a furtive look behind him. "I know it, Quatre, but something about him just brings out the worst in me. I want to make him blush, make him angry." His wide eyes caught his friend's smoky turquoise ones. "Sometimes I only want to talk with him, you know, like how I talk with you?"
The young blond nodded. "I understand, Duo, but he's the captain of your father's guard, and he takes his position seriously." When his friend became quiet and turned his gaze back to the darkened trail ahead, he added, "Captain Chang is the youngest to ever hold such a position. It's a great honor for him, and for your father to put him in charge of seeing to your safety means more than life to him."
Duo nodded thoughtfully and sighed. "I hate being the burden, you know. Sometimes I'd just like to chuck it all and run away to the mountains."
Quatre's laugh fairly chimed in the quiet meadow. "I'd like to see that! The son of the Great Lord Maxwell a ruffian, a cut throat hills man." His laughter died seeing the flash of pain in the other's eyes. "They don't dress in fine velvets and silks in the mountains."
His mouth twisting in exasperation, the long-haired boy snapped out, "I know that! I think that's why it has such appeal." His mouth shut and he turned once again to the trail in front of him. "I know my life has always been on the pampered side, Quatre, and I know there's more to life than what I've been shown. I guess... " his voice softened, holding a plaintive quality to it. "I guess I'd like to see what there is... with people like father, uncle Gee, and Captain Wufei in my life, I'll never find out."
A hand rested briefly on his arm. "You will, Duo. I'm sure you will." The boy's efforts won him a smile. "I think you'll enjoy living with your uncle, going to the university and staying in a big city for a change."
A quick grin flashed and the boy pulled his long braid over his shoulder, tugging on the end nervously. "I think I will, I've only seen my uncle a couple of times and have never a city that size." Suddenly his hand shot out and clasped his friends. "Thank you for coming with me Quatre. It wouldn't have been as good if you weren't there." The boys smiled at each other before settling into another comfortable silence.
Anyone looking at the two could have mistaken them for brothers though their coloring and features were different. The friends had grown up together in neighboring holdings, often spending weeks at one or the other's home. Both were heirs of the lands, both knew one day in the future they would rule in their father's stead. The two neighboring holdings were prosperous, healthy and peaceful; few were left wanting and war and adverse didn't cross the borders often.
It was at Duo's fifteenth birthday his father announced his departure. His heir and son would be leaving at summer's end for his brother's house to attend the university, meet with other noble families, make contacts worthy of him, and find a wife. Duo wasn't sure what bothered him more - leaving his family home or knowing he'd have to marry within the next two years.
The thought of marriage sent a shiver down his spine. He didn't know what life was, hadn't experienced enough of it for himself. How could he be expected to tie himself down so quickly? His duties had been laid out for him loud and clear. He knew he had to educate himself, and meet other powerful nobles to form allies in case the rumors out of the north kingdoms became true with the hordes of Steppe riders sweeping through their kingdom. His duty to his family, his holdings, and its people included continuation of the bloodlines - producing an heir.
Stifling the snort that wanted to break free, Duo wondered on that thought. He'd kissed a girl or two and found it messy. The older boys he'd talked with told him how exciting it was to be with girls, and how things happened. When he asked Quatre what he thought and if he'd done anything about it, the blond could only stammer and turn pink. It took Duo more than a week to drag the truth from his best friend.
Quatre told him he'd tried kissing a girl, but he felt more like he'd kissed one of his sisters than excited. He confessed that he had felt that excitement once. But it hadn't been a girl who made him feel that way. There had been a cousin who'd visited the summer before, a boy their age and one who caused his heart to thump loud enough he worried someone would hear. The cousin had stayed a week, and the night before he was to leave, the boy caught him in the hall. Quatre told of being pressed against the wall and kissed quick before the boy sprinted away.
A slight frown marred Duo's features thinking of that. Does that mean I might prefer boys to girls? He shot a glance to his friend from the corner of his eye. Quatre's cute enough, but ugh, it'd be... ugh! I couldn't kiss him! His thoughts slid to the handsome captain of the guard and a smile twitched at his lips. I would like to see what it'd be like to kiss him, though. A faint blush colored his cheeks, and he ducked his head in embarrassment. What the hell am I thinking? Wufei would kill me first! Sighing, he refused to think on the matter any longer and contented himself with watching the trail narrow as the caravan entered the mountain pass.
The travelers hadn't been on the pass long when the front guard held a hand up to stop their progress. He rode back, stopping briefly by the two companions to explain. "There's been a rock slide ahead blocking the path. We'll have to clear it to get the wagon through." Spurring his horse onward, he continued to the end of the trail to inform the captain.
Duo and Quatre trotted forward and dismounted to lend a hand. Neither were strangers to hard work, not with both of their fathers believing a ruler needed to know every aspect of their land. Both boys had put time into tilling, planting and sowing fields, as well as working with livestock.
Tossing a large rock to the side, Duo paused and looked around. He thought he'd heard a shout but there had been several odd noises since they'd entered the mountain pass. What caused his sudden wariness was the realization that neither guard had returned to assist in removing the rocks, and Wufei hadn't made his presence known.
He'd removed his traveling coat and short sword, leaving them on his saddle while working with the rock pile. As the hairs began to stand up on his arms, and the tingling of nerves danced at the back of his neck, he moved towards his horse, turning his head in every direction.
"Duo?" Quatre's voice was puzzled. "What's...?"
Several yells sounded, loud and shrill on the narrow pass. Before Quatre could finish his question, a dark figure jumped from the cliff above onto his back, knocking him to the ground.
Lunging quickly, Duo stretched his arm out for his sword. His fingers brushed the scabbard just as another body threw him to the ground. Rolling quickly to his feet, Duo crouched, his knife now in hand.
Face to face, the two circled one another. Sheathing his sword and drawing his knife, a dark-haired young man chuckled richly. "So, the rich brat wants to fight, does he?" He held his hand out, palm up and with a smirking grin, waved his fingers at the boy, taunting him.
His fighting lessons firmly in place, Duo let the jibe flow over him. Keeping his concentration fixed firmly on the man in front of him, and away from worrying where his friend was and what was happening to him. His eyes followed the man's hand as it almost caressed the knife. Though his experience in life had been limited, Duo knew the stories, he'd heard what these mountain brigands did to their captives... if they lived. He had no intention of becoming a slave nor of dying this day.
Risking a quick glance, the boy counted five bandits including the one he faced. He spotted Quatre trussed up and off to the side with one of their guards and the wagon driver. Good. It looks like they're still alive. Focusing his attention back on his opponent, he realized his mistake immediately. The man was already moving and a numbing blow caused him to drop his knife.
The dark-haired man stepped back and gestured to the ground. "Pick it up. Only this time keep your attention on me. Nothing will happen to your friend - at least not until I say so." Another arrogant smirk flashed across his lips.
Flushing darkly, Duo picked up his knife, keeping his eyes on the man. His wrist stung and he had trouble gripping the blade's handle. Thoughts rushed through his mind, chasing one another trying to come up with a way out of this situation.
He feinted to the man's left, diving low and rolling away before the man knew what he was doing. Duo wanted to put some distance between them and he had been too close to the cliff’s side. At his back a ticket of trees and brush grew. Though dense, Duo believed he might be able to use the cover as an escape. If he could escape, he'd find a settlement, or a village and bring back help to rescue Quatre and the guards.
"Hey boss, cut out the dance and just knock the kid out. I want to get back." A rough voice called out from above.
Not moving his gaze, the dark-haired warrior responded, "If you're in such a hurry, load the bodies and get the wagon out of here." A slow amused grin slid up his face. "I'm having some fun for now and will join you later... at the keep."
"I'll take care of this one," a smooth baritone intoned.
Recognizing the voice, Duo raised his head with a gasp. It was one of the guards! The one who usually brought up the end. The one Quatre had been making eyes with the whole trip. Shock nearly staggered him, but the sudden lunge from his opponent brought his attention back. He could feel his lips sliding into a hard cold grimace. They had been betrayed.
His focus narrowed only to the figure in front of him, he pushed out thoughts of betrayal, thoughts of Quatre and what would happen next from forming. Using the speed he'd been praised for, he spun in with another feint, dodged the other's blade and took a swipe of his own. Hearing a surprised grunt reward his efforts, he had already danced out of the man's reach.
A new gleam sparked in Duo's eye seeing the red line appear on the bandit's arm. The smirk had left his face, but amusement still glimmered in his eyes. The long-haired boy noticed the man's attempt to move him back against the cliff side, trapping him again. Duo backed up, edging close to the brush he could sense behind him. The others he could hear moving around, cussing and harassing each other, but paid no attention to what they did. He assumed they'd be doing as the "boss" said, and would be leaving the area, leaving him alone with this man.
Good. If I can hold him off for that long, I'll be able to make a break for it. His thoughts stilled as the man moved again, rushing forward in a frontal assault. Lithely, Duo dove to the side, rolling into a somersault and coming to his feet a good distance away. He nearly grinned for avoiding the obvious attempt to push him back to the cliff.
"C'mon, boy. Do you know more than acrobatic tricks? Can you do more than dance?" the hill man's voice had dropped to a low sultry timbre.
Jutting his chin out, Duo countered, "I think I've proved I can do more."
A laugh met his defiance. "You speak! I was beginning to wonder." The bandit leader sobered and cast an almost contemptuous look at his arm. "You have some skill, boy, but to win this fight, you'll have to do much better than that."
Duo tried to keep the sudden hot anger from clouding his thoughts, but even he knew he'd been lucky to mark the man.
He refused to answer the taunt, and swallowing his anger, he shifted his stance. He let his eyes dart over the man's frame, noticing for the first time how his hair fell over his face, casting his eyes into shadow. When he first faced him, Duo believed the bandit stocky and tall, now he could see he wasn't at all what he thought. Shoulders broad with muscles, arms showing defined strength, the man seemed not much older or taller than Duo himself. And though the long-haired boy had height, he was much shorter than most men he knew.
Lazily, the bandit leader straightened and watched as the last of his men disappeared around the bend in the pass. A low chuckle wound its way up the man's throat, deep and harmonious. "It looks as though it's just you and me, boy."
"Stop calling me boy, asshole," Duo ground out, letting a bit of this temper take hold.
A laugh met his ears, and the bandit strode forward shorting the distance between the two. "And if I don't stop? What will you do? How will you stop me... boy?"
Backing up with the man's advance, Duo's eyes went wide. What the hell...? He knew he was near the brush, and dodging forward quickly, he swiped at the man's stomach, causing him to jump back. As fast as he could, he darted around the bandit, and jumped the bush blocking his escape. Duo was brought up short and a sharp pain tugged at his head. Suddenly he was flying through the air backwards; the man had pulled on his braid and was using it against him.
"Fuck!" Duo shouted, landing hard on the road.
Kicking the knife from his hand, the dark-haired man knelt above him. "It's been amusing, and I can assure you we will fight more. But now we need to go - I want to be back at the keep by dark." His hand reached forward and touched his face, his fingers gently stroked his cheek. "Besides, I'd hate to have an accident and mark this pretty face of yours."
Duo jerked his face away, keeping his eyes on the man. "Fuck you!"
He was answered by a roguish grin and a laughing, "Oh, I plan on it." Standing, the man grabbed both of Duo's wrists and bound them together quickly. "Get up now. We'll ride your horse back to the camp."
His arm held firmly in the man's hand, the long-haired noble had no choice but to as he was told. He rose to his feet, his expression sullen almost petulant as he stumbled along behind his captor. He knew he hadn't fought his best, he'd allowed himself to be distracted first by his surroundings and then by his opponent. If anything happened to Quatre, it would be his fault.
Keeping his face downcast, he was startled when hands grasped around his waist and he was suddenly astride his horse. Before he could form the idea of spurring his mount and taking off, let alone act on it, the bandit leader had swung up into the saddle behind him, his arms wrapped tightly about his body.
The ride to the bandit keep wasn't long, but Duo spent his time thinking about the man behind him, the arms wrapped about his waist, and the look in the man's eye as he promised more to come. Though he tried, he couldn't control his breathing or the thudding beat of his heart imagining what the man's intentions were. He shuddered, not certain if from fear, revulsion or anticipation.
Cool lips brushed against his ear and the man's voice whispered softly on his skin. "We're nearly there, love, and the fight will begin again."
Pulling away abruptly, Duo nearly lost his balance and the arms tightened about him. Embarrassed, he averted his face, keeping his flaming cheeks from the bandit's sight.
It was full dark when their journey ended, and the roguish leader jumped from the saddle, turning to pull his captive down after him. Weakened with the fight, the anxiety and the long ride, Duo's legs buckled. Strong arms closed about him, holding him up. The long-haired boy raised his eyes and saw by the light from the large bonfire his captor's endless blue ones staring down at him.
His mouth opened and closed trying to force words past his lips. No phrase, no prose, not a single sentence would come and he drew a sharp breath, shocked with the fire racing suddenly through his body at the man's touch. At his back, his mare shifted and he was thrust up against the man's chest. Even as the man's lips touched his, the bandit chuckled. Duo's eyes slid closed. Nothing he'd ever felt before compared to the man's kiss and he felt his body sag against his. Reality came swift as he tried to raise his hands, wanting to touch him. His wrists, still tightly bound, were trapped between the two bodies.
Wrenching his face away, Duo could only shake with his shame and humiliation and refuse to look at his captor. A hand brushed his cheek softly, before dropping down to his wrists and holding it. Stepping back, the bandit drew the boy with him. He tossed the reins to a boy who stood waiting to the side and pulled Duo along behind as he made his way to where the majority of the noise came from - the bonfire.
Duo tried to see passed his captor's body, tried to see where they were going, trying to catch a glimpse of his blond headed friend. When they stopped, he was surprised how quiet it had got and looked up. They stood before a raised dias, and one of the most beautiful women Duo'd ever seen lay amongst the cushions on a lounge. Her honey streaked blond hair hung in shimmering waves over her shoulders, pooling about her waist. At her feet, a bound figure sprawled, her hand draped over the side of her chair trailed over its hair, caressing it in a loving fashion. The boy almost choked when he realized the figure was none other than his guard captain, Wufei.
"Heero," the woman's voice sounded in the sudden stillness. "I see you bring me another young beautiful creature." Her red pouting lips curved into a smile. "Bring him to me. I wish to taste him."
The man tensed at Duo's side, and the boy glanced up at him. He could see the hardening of his jaw and no longer did mirth and amusement dance in his eyes. "No, Relena, this one is mine. I will keep him."
Relena's eyes narrowed. "I've already given up one pretty boy tonight. I don't wish to lose another." She waved her hand behind her to vague shapes hidden in the darkness away from the fire's light. "Choose of my stock any you wish. But that one, the one of violet eyes and long hair will be mine."
The dark-haired man shifted uneasily and looked at the boy by his side. "Duo, do we have to do this?"
Surprise flashed on the upturned face. "Heero, you can't do that... you're not suppose to know who I am."
Making an impatient gesture, Heero sat back on the bed. "But it's silly. I don't understand why you want to do this."
Duo looked at his lover and started to explain again, "It adds excitement, a change of pace." Seeing the other boy's face still clouded with confusion, he added, "You know, something different?"
Heero shook his head. "I don't understand why you want something different. Are you bored?" his voice a little tremulous.
Quickly moving forward, the long-haired boy straddled his lover's lap. "No!" he responded forcefully, following his words with a kiss. "Never bored. Shit, Heero, I can't get enough of you." His lips slid into a sultry grin as he lifted his bound hands over his lover's neck. "It's just one of those things couples do, yanno? They role play... become someone different for a bit." Noting the still lost expression in Heero's eyes, he asked, "Haven't you ever wanted to be someone else? Someone different?"
His arms around Duo's waist, his hands rubbing his back, Heero paused to give it some thought. Finally he replied softly, "No, I don't think I've ever wanted to be someone else."
Biting back a sigh, Duo asked quietly, "Do you ever dream or fantasize about doing anything different? I mean, sexually?"
Again Heero shook his head, "No, I don't think so." Seeing his lover's twinge at his abrupt answer, he hurried added, "We do things differently sexually all the time. I could never get bored with you."
Giving him a quick kiss, the long-haired boy rocked his pelvis grinding his body against his lover's. "It's not that I want things different between us, but when you put yourself in situations other than the usual, you can do stuff you wouldn't normally do."
Heero removed the boy's arms from his neck, and began to untie his hands. "You mean like being bound?"
Duo nodded. "Being tied up has it's own excitement. I think I'd love for you to tie me up." He wiggled his brows seductively, ignoring the amused smile his lover gave him. "Tie me up so you could have your way with me."
Lips traced down the boy's jaw line as the words blew softly over his skin, "But I have my way with you without you being tied up." Duo groaned and rocked his hips again. "Besides, I like your hands free. I like it when you touch me."
"Like this?" the long-haired boy began to demonstrate, fingers ghosting over bared skin, down strong arms, and gliding over toned shoulders.
"Hn," the soft reply came. A sudden tightening of his arms, and the two flipped positions, Heero now straddling his lover's hips.
Duo let out a soft throaty chuckle. "What was that for? You got something in mind?"
"Hn," Heero murmured, his mouth busy nibbling on an earlobe. As Duo arched his back, thrusting his groin to rub against his lover's, the other boy gasped, "You. I have you in mind."
"Ah," Freed hands found themselves buried in thick mussed hair alternately grasping and tugging as the kisses became hotter. "And just what do you have in mind for me?"
Sighing, Heero pulled back and looked down at his lover. "I would like to explore some more different ways to have sex with you, but you keep talking."
Duo grinned unabashedly at him. "You could gag me, ya know."
Heero shook his head. "No, I like the feel of your lips on my skin." He stilled and a light came into his eye. "But... with this role playing thing, you can choose to do anything right? Be anyone?" When his slightly confused lover nodded, Heero continued, "Then I have a fantasy..."
"Great!" Duo nearly shouted in his excitement. "What is it? Tell me!"
Trailing kissing along his lover's mouth, stifling the words as they came, Heero replied, "You are now mute, and cannot speak."